Dear Story Siren (4)

(Advance reader copy edition)

Dear Story Siren,

I’m being swallowed by my TBR pile! How do you maintain your reading schedule while getting so many new ones every day in the mail?

What do you do when you start getting tons of ARC’s? I had one month recently where I got 56. I asked for none of them. I dont like to not review them but there is no possible way to review all of them by the publication date and now I am further behind with the ones I get each month. Help!

Dear Anon & A

I’m going to answer the two questions from above since they are very similar.

You do the best you can.

I know for me there is no possible way I can read every single book I receive for review. And the sooner that you accept that, the sooner you will start sleeping at night. My TBR pile used to keep me up at night, no kidding.

Read what you can. I do not guarantee a review will be posted. I try to mention every book I receive for review on the site, although it may not be in the form of a review. I get books in the mail, that I don’t even know are coming. Sometimes I review them, sometimes I don’t.

I hardly request advance readers copies anymore. Are there arcs that I want…. hell yes, I could make a list for you right now….. but I just can’t justify asking for review copies, when my review pile contains so many great titles already. I hate to admit that, I hate that I feel that way, there are so many books that I would love to review, but I just can’t get myself to ask regularly. Even though… believe me, I really want to! (but i want to review the books i have even more)

What a reading schedule?! I try to have books read and reviewed so that I can post during their release months. It doesn’t always happen that way, but more often than not. How bad is it that a just read and wrote a review for a novel that I received last april….. not that, that is something normal for me, because it’s not. But hey… it happens. Find a flexible schedule that works for you!

You are not a book reading machine. Don’t try to be, you will burn yourself out.

You are not alone,
Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

I was wondering, do you review every book you receive for review? If not, what do you do with the books you decide to not review?


Dear Me,

No, I do not.

It just depends. I donate a lot of books to my library. Sometimes I give away the books in a contest. The blogosphere is usually bringing my attention to great causes/charities that are in need of books, a lot of them get donated that way. Sometimes I keep them, hoping to read them someday.

Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

I have recently received an ARC of a new book by a very popular YA author. It is my first ARC I have ever been sent and feel that I should show appreciation of that with my review. But I don’t want to give it 5 stars just because I am thankful that I got it sent to me early, I also don’t to give it a bad review if I don’t like it and not get offers to review ARCs anymore. I should point out that I haven’t read it yet, but will soon.


Dear A,

This is a little tricky.

I always find the best way is to be honest. Don’t sell yourself short and say that you enjoyed something when you didn’t. You’ll flush your credibility down the toilet before you even get started.

If you don’t end up enjoying the book, it is possibly to write a tasteful negative review. You don’t have to  be mean or sarcastic. Don’t make it a personal attack on the author. Simply state the reasons why you didn’t enjoy the novel. Hopefully you will be respected for sharing a truthful opinion. Another thing I always try to do when I read a book I didn’t really enjoy is find at least one thing that I did like.

Keepin’ it real,
Story Siren

I took your advice from tips to bloggers and asked for ARCs. I have started getting them from some companies and now am wondering about the etiquette for holding giveaways for said ARCs. What do you know about this?


Dear Jana,

It’s always best to ask the publisher that sent you the arc if they would mind if you held a contest. In my experience most do not mind, but if you are wondering, it may be better to ask.

I know most people don’t even ask, it’s something I’m sure a lot of people overlook and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s good that you have considered it.

Good Luck,
Story Siren

How do you respond when you decline book review requests?

Dear Anon,

I’ve been doing this a lot lately. I’m becoming more selective about the books I accept because… well you can read more about that above in the questions regarding tbr piles!

But usually a simple explanation of the truth is a great way to go.

I start off by thanking the person that sent the request, because they used their valuable time and effort to send this to me, it’s the least I can do. I nicely decline the request, usually following with the explanation that I’m being more selective about the titles I am accepting at this time, but perhaps they should contact me in the future concerning other titles.

Something along those lines. I always try to reply to a request even if it is to decline, but I don’t every time. I should work on that.

Story Siren

When should a review be posted on your blog when it’s an arc?

Dear Anon,

In my experience most of the readers of my blogs are actual readers themselves, and not necessarily book sellers or librarians… although I do have some librarians. But since most of my viewers are readers themselves it’s better to post the review as close to the review date as possible, or when the book is available, that way if the person likes what they see, they will be able to find it next time they hit up the bookstore or head to the library. I usually forget about titles I hear about months before they come out by the time they hit the shelves.

There is a great post about when to post reviews on Reviewer X

If you have a question…. blog related, personal, book related… submit it below to be featured on a future post of “Dear Story Siren”

Dear Story Siren (3)

Dear Story Siren,

Approximately how many hours a week do you spend on your blog?

Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

Dear Jennifer,

Can I say…. too much! I at least spend a few hours everyday on my blog, and a lot more on the weekends. That doesn’t include the hours I spend on the internet, that I shouldn’t! If I had to give a number, I’d say at least 16 hours a week.

The Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

When is your birthday? I feel like I need to be prepared for that special date! :)


Dear MC,

My birthday is April 17.

-Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

I was wondering how you made the navigation bar up above (It says home, about, etc.) with its cute buttons! :)

- Anonymous


A site designer actually designed my layout for me. So I’m not exactly sure.

However, if you have a blogspot blog, you now have the option to make “pages” and there is an option for a navigation bar! It’s easy to do! All you have to do is go to your posting tab and then look for “Edit Pages” it will walk you through the process.

Also very good resource you can use to make your own horizontal navigation bar is Then have a step-by-step tutorial for horizontal navigation bars.

If you have a question…. blog related, personal, book related… submit it below to be featured on a future post of “Dear Story Siren”

Dear Story Siren (2)

Dear Story Siren,

I am a spanish girl, reader and blogger and I would like to contact american authors and publisher in order to review their books. I know a lot of people get to have their ARC or books signed about their favourite writers… but I’m still a little bit inexperienced in that kind of contact.

Could you give me any advice?



Dear L,

I get this question a lot from international bloggers. Honestly I have absolutely no experience or knowledge of how this works as I live in the US. As far as I’m aware US publishers do not usually send books overseas, but I could be wrong.

As far as contacting authors, I don’t think they would object to you contacting them, but they may not be able to send you a book either.

If you are looking to get more US titles, a great place to go online, is The Book Depository. They have numerous titles and free worldwide shipping to most countries. Another international blogger mentioned BookSneeze as a place to get advance readers copies, but again, I am not familiar with this program, so I can’t say much about it. Lenore of Presenting Lenore also recently started the International Blogger Mentor Program, which you might want to check out as well.

If there are any international bloggers that have better insight into this question, please feel free to answer!

Sorry I can’t be of more help!

The Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

There’s this book that I’m absolutely dying to read and I’ve been thinking about contacting the author (or the publishing house) for a copy of the book. But I also want to interview the author… and I feel like asking the author for an ARC and an interview would be too much. Am I right in thinking this? And what should I do?


Dear S.

This is a tricky question. And your answer will vary depending on who you ask. Personally, I’m not a fan of emailing for books, but I do it. Because sometimes there are books that I am “absolutely dying” to read too!

At the same time there are other people don’t bat an eyelash! I don’t think you’re asking for too much, but you should be comfortable with what you are doing.

Honestly…what’s the worst that could happen?…. they could say no. Why not go for it?

For interviews, I usually contact the author directly. And I have been told “no” before! But it’s always worth a try.

Good Luck!

The Story Siren

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Dear Story Siren

Dear Story Siren,

I was wondering if you have any advice about contacting authors for guest blogs or interviews. Contact directly or go through a publisher? Is there any place that lists author email addresses? Any advice on how to approach them other than the standard, be professional? I am hoping to incorporate more author interaction on my blog in 2010 and I’m not quite sure how to take that first step.


Dear J,

Most of the authors I’ve contact have been very happy to provide an interview. The only time I have even went through a publisher to get an interview, is if they had contacted me first. It’s almost impossible to know what publicist to contact to get the author that you want, but some do have it listed on their author websites. However, I find that it’s the easiest to contact the author directly. Usually you can find a way to contact the author via their website, such as a contact form or an email address. Just know that authors usually have a full inbox, but I’m sure they will contact you as soon as possible.

As far as how to approach an author, it’s always safe to go the professional route, I find it easier to be more personable with authors, but I suggest using the approach you are most comfortable with.

Good luck!


If you have a question…. blog related, personal related, book related… submit it below to be featured on a future post of “Dear Story Siren”

Advance Readers Copies: What you need to know

A hot topic around the YA book blogosphere… or really any book blogosphere is Advance Readers Copies. Or as you may or may not know them: ARC. ARCs are bound uncorrected proofs of a book, that usually circulates before the books release, early buzz if you will. You don’t have them, you want them. You have too many of them, the guilt keeps you up night….. Or something like that.

In case you missed last weeks YA Connection, I posted a link to a very informative post by debut author Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven) if you haven’t checked it out, you should. Here is the link (Dearest Book Bloggers). It’s a very informative post whether you are a new blogger or not. I also want to mention a post that author Saundra Mitchell (Shadowed Summer) did about ARCs, (How Did You Get All Those Books- The Author Side.)

I’ll occasionally receive emails in the inbox from new bloggers, asking for help, asking for advice, which if you’ve contacted me and I finally got back to you… (sorry I know I am insanely slow about that… I promise I will work on that) anyway, if you’ve contacted me, you know that I’m all about giving out advice, trying to spread my knowledge, if you will. If it’s any good, I really don’t know.

One of the most frequent emails that I’ll get is asking about advance readers copies… asking what they are, and how the emailer can get them too. Let me first start out by saying, that when I respond to these emails my first suggestion is to never starting a book blog solely to get arcs or ‘free’ books. I know people do it, but coming from a (semi) experienced blogger, believe me, it is not worth it! But honestly I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what to tell these emailers. So I decided that maybe I should find out.

I wanted to be informative and reliable when I responded to emails like this, I decided to do some research on the situation. I emailed some publishing houses and some authors. A few of them were kind enough to get back with me and this is what they had to say. I have chosen a few of the answers to quote that I found to be very informative. Overall, they all had similar answers across the board.

I asked the publishing houses three questions:

  • How do you feel about bloggers asking for advance readers copies (ARCs)?
  • Do blog stats matter to you?
  • What is the average cost to produce an advance reader copy (ARC)?

Here’s what they had to say:

How do you feel about bloggers asking for advance readers copies?

Most of them don’t mind getting emails requesting copies. However, they wanted the emails to be short & sweet and professional. They don’t need to know your life story. Be sure to include your mailing address. And also realize that they have a very busy job! They may not get back to you in a timely manner don’t send them ten emails to see what’s taking them so long.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s what they had to say:

“I’m of two minds. On the one hand, I love book review blogs. I think they reach the average reader in a way that the New York Times simply does not. But, in my experience, there’s an element of professionalism lacking in much of the book blogging community. It’s easy to tell when a blog has been started because the blogger wants free books, not because they want to talk about books in any real way. When I get an email from someone who’s been blogging for two months and asks for an ARC for every single book in our catalog, that’s a red flag for me. Bloggers are not entitled to ARCs simply because their blog exists—they need to provide a service that makes sending those ARCs worth it, in the form of (and I feel like I’ve been saying this a lot, but I’m going to say it again) thoughtful, well-written reviews. And, yes, we appreciate when bloggers post our extra content, like trailers and videos and widgets and so forth—we create much of that content for bloggers, so it makes us feel like that work is worth it.

I don’t mind people asking for advanced reader copies, but I will say a couple of things:

  • First, ask for small books as well as big ones—or mostly/only small ones when you’re just starting out. 
  • DON’T treat your publishing contact like Amazon—just because you ask for a book doesn’t mean it can or will be sent, and furthermore they might not have the time to tell you whether or not you’ll be receiving it. People in publishing are very overworked, it’s important to be gracious and kind to them—and, frankly, that’s the only way you’ll be able to get anything you ask for, because I do not send books to bloggers who harass me. I get some very tetchy, rude emails from people who are angry that the books they requested haven’t arrived, and I stop communicating with those people. It’s not worth it for me to mail books to people who think that my only job is to cater to their whims.
  • If someone at the publishing company says “no” to you, DON’T go around asking other people at the house. It will get back to them that you were doing that—publishing houses might seem big, but they’re tiny. If they think someone else might be able to help you, they will direct you to that person or ask them internally.
  • Be professional! I can’t say this enough. If you wouldn’t write something in a work email, don’t write it to a publishing contact. Unless you are actually friends with that person, don’t overshare personal information. It’s unnecessary and makes things uncomfortable. Just be nice and clear and say thank you.
  • Think about what you are offering to the publisher in exchange for the ARC, and provide that thing. We don’t expect every single book we send out to be reviewed, but if we find that a blogger who asks for a dozen ARCs at a time but never reviews any of them, we will probably stop sending.
  • Alert your contact when you’ve posted a review or are giving away a copy of a book from their house. It’s very helpful, and we appreciate it.
  • Don’t clog up our inboxes with too many emails—they get lost that way. If you have multiple things to say, one email will suffice.” 

“I don’t mind receiving emails asking for review copies, but they must be succinct.  A request email should always contain the mailing address and information about the blog (like the stats I’ll mention below).  A couple tips: keep it brief, and always be professional.  I receive a lot of emails with TMI – anything from how a particular book relates to their past relationships to serious issues like life-threatening illness.  I love it when reviewers are friendly, but there’s a line between that and sharing impertinent personal information.

Please understand that publicists work on a ton of titles, so they can’t always get back to you in a timely manner.  It’s acceptable to follow up after a few weeks, but saying “I know you’re busy” while sending 10 emails is still stressful!  And please don’t argue when I ask for stats or tell you that review copies aren’t available.  Unfortunately these are just realities of the job!”

Do blog stats matter to you?

In word word: YES!

“Blog stats do matter in the sense that publicity (online and print) is about reaching as many people as possible. But, actually, what matters MORE to me is the way I feel about that blog and the blogger who runs it. If a blogger is a consummate professional and really tries hard to shine a light on our smaller titles, is always letting me know about reviews and writes great ones that are of value to the community, I’ll probably send them whatever they ask for. It’s about trust and assurance that company assets are being invested wisely. If I trust a blogger, I’ll always try to accommodate them.”

“Blog stats are very important to us, specifically number of monthly unique visitors. Information about other sites where your posts have been picked up is also good. Stats like amount of Blogger followers or RSS downloads aren’t very helpful, since they don’t track all visitors. Since review copies are so limited – finished and ARCs — these are the benchmarks we have to use when deciding to send to a blogger (for the record, we look at this the same way as magazine or newspaper circulation). Unfortunately, no matter how favorable or honest a review is, or how beautifully a blog is designed, or how often it’s updated, we really have to rely on the numbers.”

“Stats are something that we look at, but they’re not the only thing by any means. For every request I get I check out the blog and if it’s well-written, regularly updated and, most importantly, the blogger is obviously someone who loves reading and is passionate about books then the stats are much less of a factor. I also always look as which other bloggers are following the blogger and if it’s people I know and trust then that helps me too!”

What is the average cost to produce an ARC?

Surprisingly enough, ARCs cost a lot more to make than the finished copy of a book. Which honestly was something that I wasn’t even aware of.

“It depends on the ARC (for instance, fancy things like foiling or embossing or glossy covers tend to add cost), but from $16-20 is a pretty normal range. The average BOOK costs a fraction of that to print, because the print run for an ARC is a couple thousand, if that—the print run for a regular book is much higher, and, in some cases, MUCH MUCH higher.”

In addition to the questions I asked they also included other interesting information that I think is beneficial to know as well:

“Because of the economy, many publishers (including us) are cutting down on the amount of ARCs/galleys AND finished books that are sent out to media (Surprisingly, galleys actually cost more than finished books). Usually we send about 20-30 ARCs to reviewers, while we’re able to send many more finished books. Galleys are mostly created for long-lead magazines, which are actually printing their content three months in advance of publication. There are a handful of websites/blogs, radio shows, and newspapers that also need and receive galleys, but the vast majority of blogs must wait to receive finished books (a couple weeks before the pub date).”

“Outside of your questions, I would say that if someone “just started a review blog”, they should NOT be asking for ARCs. If they prove themselves to be good reviewers (meaning they post consistent, well-written, thoughtful reviews, negative or positive), a publicist or online marketing person will probably contact them eventually, most likely asking them if they would be interested in reviewing a book that is small for the house, that isn’t getting a whole lot of marketing or publicity thrust behind it. IF they MUST contact a publicist/online marketing person, here are some things new bloggers should not do:

  • Send the same email multiple times (often we get emails that are obviously form emails with just the name of the book and the author name changed—sending one email with a list is preferable)
  • Send an email that is formatted weirdly, with insane fonts and colors—it’s just unprofessional
  • Send an email that tells their life story—just a brief introduction, the link to the blog, a sentence about how long they’ve been blogging, and what book(s) they are requesting is sufficient
  • Send an email without a mailing address! If I get an email from a new blogger requesting a book that doesn’t have a mailing address, I usually ignore it, not because I’m being rude, but because I am very busy and don’t have time to reply asking for a mailing address. The easier you can make it for someone at a house to send you a book, the more likely you are to receive it
  • Send an email requesting every single big title for the house in question. We get a limited number of ARCs per title—for some we get 50, for some we get 250, for some we get 15, and it totally depends and is not always based on how important/not important the book is for the house—and if we don’t get very many, we will probably send to the biggest blogs with the highest traffic or people we know and like. But, if a blogger asks for a title we don’t get a lot of requests for, I will send it almost 100% of the time. If you are a blogger who’s only been doing it for a few months, you’re unlikely to get an ARC for a lead title, but asking for an ARC of something that probably won’t get a lot of attention is a sure fire way to ingratiate yourself to us. Now, post a thoughtful, well-written review of that book, send us the link, and you’re well on your way to being a trusted blogger who we’ll send bigger books to.”

But what about the other end of the spectrum… Authors. 

I also emailed a few author to see what they had to say on the matter.

I asked them:

  • How do you feel about bloggers asking you for advance readers copies?
  • Do blog stats matter to you?
  • How many advance readers copies do you usually receive?

How do you feel about bloggers asking you for ARCs?

Most of the times authors are flattered when they are asked. Unfortunately, they don’t usually have arcs, which will be discussed in more detail in question three. But most of the time they are happy to forward your request onto their publicist.

Here’s what some authors had to say:

“I love it when bloggers show interest in my upcoming releases, and feelbad that its impossible to have enough ARCs to fulfill all the requests. I admit that I do become frustrated when people ask for “review copies” of a book that’s been out for several years, but I think sometimes newer bloggers don’t understand exactly how the system works. But hey, it never hurts to ask. Just please don’t get angry when we have to say no.”

“I get a lot of this, and while I don’t mind the question, I feel bad about the answer I usually have to give. I don’t get enough ARCs to send out to reviewers, because there are just too many reviewers out there.”

“I feel honored to be asked IF the blogger is a serious reviewer who is fair and thoughtful in their reviews.”

“Well, now my advanced review copies go exclusively out from my publishers, except for the contest copies I receive, so it sort of irks me that they went to the trouble to find my e-mail address and e-mail me when right on my website it says: “If you’d like to be considered as a potential review venue, please send your requests along with your physical mailing address, your blog visit statistics, and a little bit about the popularity of your blog to (an email address would be here… but i’m keeping things anon here.) It’s not hard to find this bit of info — it’s right in the FAQ — but I feel like a lot of bloggers just make a beeline straight for my email without even taking in any of the info on the page. It makes me feel sad and underloved and like they should give me roses and have some foreplay before they ask me for an ARC.

Most bloggers do go through my publishers now, much to my relief, because it was incredibly time consuming to go through the requests, and the ones that don’t . . . it makes me wonder if they’re a newbie, a jerkface, or merely a non-careful reader, in which case, how in depth will their review be?”

Do blog stats matter to you?

Yes they do, but so do a ton of other things!

“Absolutely. What is the point of having a glowing review on someone’s LiveJournal that gets ten hits a week? ARCs are expensive and limited, and you’re basically gambling $7-15 on every ARC you send out, hoping you’ll get a review. So yes, stats matter.

But basically, when I was sending them out myself, I wanted decent traffic. And that means 100 followers for a blogger blog or at least 100 unique hits a day (not repeat hits or internal ones). It’s also nice to see an active commenting community on the blog — I don’t care what the stats are, again, if they have fifteen unique comments on a post, I’m going to send them one, because they have commenters who are likely active on other blogs as well, and that’s worth more than 100 silent readers.”

“What matters more to me is a solid history of book reviews on the blog.”

“While I don’t send ARCs to reviewers, I do sometimes send some of my personal copies (author copies) of the final product to reviewers, and yes, blog stats matter. Those copies are sent out in hopes that the resulting reviews will catch the attention of some readers who have never heard of me or my books, and the bigger the reviewer’s readership, the greater the change that will happen.”

“They don’t really; what matters is the fair and thoughtful review part. But I think they do matter to the publishing houses.”

“Blog stats (as in visitor numbers) matter a lot less to me than content, quality, and appropriateness of the target. I’m more likely to send an ARC to a blog that writes quality reviews, a blog that writes a lot of reviews (as opposed to taking books but never reviewing them), a blog that tends to review books in my specific genre (i.e., don’t send your fluffy chick lit novel to the blog that likes things dark and serious), or a blog whose reviews I agree with and respect. I always want the blogs I read and follow to review my books, because obviously, I care about their opinion. If a blog has liked my books in the past, I think they are a good target for future releases. If a blog has disliked my books in the past, even if they are well-traveled and write quality reviews, I’m less likely to send future books to them. They probably wouldn’t read the book (hereby wasting one of my few ARCs) or like it if they did. I definitely keep a list of the bloggers who have reviewed my book for future inclusion of ARCs, and I hope even if I don’t have enough ARCs to send them all, that I can do something else to let them get a sneak peek of my book.”

How many advance reader copies do you usually receive?

The unanimous answer for this one, is not many. Something to remember when you email an author.

“…author themselves usually has very, very few, and asking them for an ARC is a far more dicey proposition than asking the publisher.”

“With one exception, I’ve never gotten more than five, and I only got one of my latest release.”

“Even before they come, I know I owe five or ten to my agent to send out to the foreign rights people, or I’ve been given the responsibility to distribute ARCs to authors we’re going to ask for blurbs, or etc. I do know that with every single one of my books, I’ve distributed all but one ARC that I kept for myself.”

“I was lucky and got 20. I know authors who have received only one copy.”

So there it is. This isn’t just a post for new bloggers this is just for reviewers in general. I’m not trying to pick on anyone, so don’t take this as a personal attack. I learned so much myself, asking these questions, and hopefully you have too.

Also.. forgot to mention this, but THANK YOU to the authors and pubs that got back to me, you know who you are!

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